Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Church Life’ Category

Bro. Matt’s Blog has moved to “Gripped By The Gospel”

In Church Life on October 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I have moved all of the content of this blog to http://gbtg.wordpress.com.  Stop on by!

My Christian Blogs – a Marvelous Online Resource

In Church Life on April 23, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Tony Kummer has developed a great blog portal called “My Christian Blogs.”  I hope you’ll go by this one-stop site.  Very handy—and it links to some good stuff!  It will greatly help you in your Christian walk.

A Perspective on the Prosperity Gospel (Piper)

In Church Life on April 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

A Recipe For Revival (Psalm 85)

In Church Life on March 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Recipes and I do not get along too well. The extent of my cooking knowledge is praying that the box says, “Microwaveable” … then I proceed.

But when it comes to recipes for revival, that’s a different story. It’s exciting to read how God moved in various awakenings throughout history. The most amazing one is found in Acts when 3000 people came to Christ in one day as Peter preached in Jerusalem. From that, many more revivals and awakenings came to pass as Peter, Stephen, Philip and the Apostle Paul traveled and preached throughout the entire Roman Empire, turning that powerful empire upside down. Though allegiance to Caesar was required (under penalty of death), many turned their allegiance to Christ (and faced the penalty of death).

Revivals have come throughout church history as well. The Great Awakening of the 1730s -40s in colonial America, eventually spreading to Europe, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in America and George Whitefield in England, brought awakened many to the Spirit’s work — among whom are John and Charles Wesley.

What exactly is “revival”? Stephen Olford says, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.” Vance Havner once said that, “Revival is the church falling in love with Jesus all over again.”

Some say we are past the era of revivals and see little use for them. One lady asked the great evangelist Billy Sunday, “Why do you keep having revivals?” Billy Sunday asked her a question right back, “Why do you keep taking baths?” The message is clear — individual Christians and churches need to set aside time to simply focus on our life in Jesus Christ. That’s the plan for this coming Sunday through Tuesday.

Getting back to our recipes — is there a recipe for revival? Is there something that one can do to conjure it up? We are going to find out that the answer is ‘no.’ We are not the ones who initiate revivals. But Psalm 85 will show us how to prepare ourselves and be ready for when revival comes.

1. A moving of the Spirit of prayer among God’s people.

In the title of this Psalm, we see, “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.” We’re not really sure who the ‘Sons of Korah’ are, but we see that they clearly have something on their heart — revival and restoration. Where did this come from? This came from the Spirit of God.

You see, we know that all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). And since God included Psalm 85 in the canon of Scripture, we know that the desire this Psalm expresses was initiated and breathed out by God.

G. Campbell Morgan gets it right when he says, “Revival cannot be organized, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.” It would be silly for us to believe that we are ‘scheduling revival.’ Sure, it’s on our calendar for May 1-3. But revival comes in God’s timing when He sents His Spirit.

Consider that conversation Jesus had with that revered teacher of the law Nicodemus. He tells Nicodemus:

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:7-8).

Jesus uses a play on words. The Greek word for ‘spirit’ is pneuma which can mean breath, spirit, or wind. You do not know where the natural wind comes from — where it begins, moves toward, or ends. It is the same with the work of His Spirit.

Matthew Henry observes: “So ready is God to hear and answer the prayers of his people that by his Spirit in the word, and in the heart, he indicts their petitions and puts words into their mouths. The people of God, in a very low and weak condition, are here taught how to address themselves to God.”

2. A look at God’s favor in the past (85:1-3).

Psalm 85 was likely written just after the people of Israel came back from exile from Babylon. After centuries of unfaithfulness, God took them away from the greatest tangible blessing He granted — their land. So in 587 B.C., God allowed Babylon to come in and take them captive from their beloved Promised Land into a foreign land.

But now they were back. This generation had heard of how God moved among Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and other godly and obedient kings. They remembered how their parents taught them of God’s wonders delivering them from Egypt, giving them victory as they entered the Promised Land, and so many other ways He blessed His people and their land. But if there was a way to sum up how things were, one just has to look to Nehemiah 1:3 in that Israel was in “great trouble and shame.”

Remember how it felt when you were first saved by God’s glorious grace? The weight of sin that was removed off your shoulders? The new-found freedom that rushed into your heart and mind? I remember — and I was on-fire for the Lord. You couldn’t shut me up about the Lord.

But time and life experiences and various other things often turn the roaring fire into embers. We get more concerned about what people think of us and get more comfortable with those who are like us (read: Christians) — thus we get cool in our relationships and get complacent in our relationship with God and with the lost. Your spiritual life and relationship with God was in “great trouble and shame.”

What do we do? In our flesh, we look at verse 1 and say, “God, give me material blessings so I know you love me and are nearby.” But isn’t it strange how those who are materially prosperous are also those who are most miserable? They have missed the foundation of why God extends His favor. It’s found in verses 2 and 3:

    [2] You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin. Selah
    [3] You withdrew all your wrath;
    you turned from your hot anger.

This is the foundation of receiving God’s mercy and grace — is the forgiveness of our inquities (gross immoral acts) and our sin (that is, our shortcomings of the glory of God — see Romans 3:23). Thus, we are recipients of God’s wrath. Albert Barnes notes that, “[God’s wrath] is the opposition of the divine character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from the favors which He bestows on the righteous.”

3. A rejuvenation (85:4-7);

[4] Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
[5] Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
[6] Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
[7] Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,
And grant us your salvation.

Notice in verse four the begging of the Psalmist for God to restore us again! Notice too in verse six the psalmist begging God to ‘revive us again!’ One is for a restoration of position — asking God to turn back His people into His direction; the other is for the restoration of passion!

We get comfortable in our position as Christians. “Thank you God for saving me, now I’ll be on my way. See you in heaven…” but acting as if God were an afterthought. The people of Israel before the exile were comfortable going through the motions, all the while blind to their rebellion and sluffing off their sins. They were comfortable in their position as “God’s people in God’s Promised Land.”

Now, in light of both the good and the bad times, the psalmist is asking for a restored position in God’s Land! But also, the Psalmist asks, “Don’t just restore us, Lord — REVIVE US!” What does that mean?

To revive means to ‘resurrect; make alive again.’ Ezekiel 37:11-12 in that valley of dry bones, God says to Ezekiel: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ [12] Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.”

This is the type of revival we need! We must not only ask God to put us in a holy position, but to grant us a holy passion! “Revive us again so that your people may rejoice in you.” When was the last time you had the joy of the Lord in you? Can you say with Nehemiah that “The joy of the Lord is your strength”? (Nehemiah 8:10). We hear of people getting saved, we say, “Oh, that’s nice!” When we ask God to deliver us and give us peace in the storm — and then He does it — we say, “Wow! I feel so at peace!” and act surprised when God follows through.

At a conference at a church in Omaha, people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. As with this particular denomination, they weren’t free to say "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord." All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased.

Some of us need to let our balloons go! Ask God as David did to “restore the joy of your salvation.” When God revives us, we rejoice in Him.

4. A hearing of God’s Word as our authority (85:8-9);

[8] Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
[9] Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

There’s an old saying, “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them.”

The writer of this Psalm wants to hear what God the Lord will speak! He wants to hear His Word. When the Word is proclaimed and the Spirit who authored the Word is on the march, mighty ‘God-things’ will begin to happen. Revivals do not and I will say cannot happen apart of being gripped by the transforming Word of God.

In Acts, you look at how many times the Word of God was preached and you look at the Spirit’s work. Many came to salvation. And yes, many did not! The reaction to the Word of God shows our standing before God and our relationship with God.

The late James Montgomery Boice mentions that, “Historically revivals have [begun] under strong biblical preaching.” With hearing God speak from His Word, we know that from His Word, “He will speak peace to his people, to his saints, but let them not turn back to folly” (v. 8). When God saves us by His Word (the Gospel), peace arrives — salvation comes! God and man are reconciled.

Yet, if you have experience this, heed the Psalmists warning! “Let them not turn back to folly!” Do slack off in the holy race! How dangerous it is when we have experience the “peace that passes all understanding” in Christ Jesus for us to turn away from Him! It is a prime example of how we do not trust him nor fear Him. The underlying issue with sin is the fact that we do not fear God, we do not trust Him, we doubt His promises and His will. We need the Word of God and His Spirit to refresh us with His peace so we may trust and fear and have hope in our salvation.

5. A standing in God’s presence (85:10-11);

[10] Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
[11] Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.

Dr. J. Elder Cumming contended that "in almost every case the beginning of new blessing is a new revelation of the character of God–more beautiful, more wonderful, more precious." And how wonderful when we see the attributes of God come together in such an incredible way. Here we see God’s attributes in perfect harmony! God’s covenant love and faithfulness come together. God’s righteousness and peace come together as well. When all of these perfect attributes of God come perfectly together, then Stephen Olford is right when he says, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.”

But look at verse 11! Faithfulness of God’s people due to their forgiveness of sin and obedience to God’s Word springs up! At the same time, God’s righteousness looks down from the sky. Here is where God and man meet! It reminds one of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” By grace through faith, our sins are forgiven! With that, God places not His righteousness with us!

6. The result: the blessing of God’s goodness (85:12-13).

[12] Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
[13] Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.

Robert Coleman says, “Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.” God is a good God! In fact, nothing good is apart from God’s goodness. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And He longs to dispense His good gifts upon His people. Our problem often is that our attitude is in such a shambles, we are in no condition to not only receive them but, if we do receive them, we fail to give glory and praise to the giver of those gifts. The greatest gift of all is the bestowment of a right condition — heart, soul, mind, and strength — that goes before Him as He makes a way for us to heaven. Christ opened the doors, bridging the gap between heaven and earth. When we are made right before Him, confessing our sin and trusting in Christ alone as our Savior and Master, the way He paved to heaven is the way we travel as we follow Him.

Conclusion

Sometimes we slide away from seeing His goodness and faithfulness in ways we don’t even see. In an e-mail I recently received entitled “Isn’t it strange…?”, it really helped put some basic things in perspective:

Isn’t it strange how a 20 dollar bill seems like such a large amount when you donate it to church, but such a small amount when you go shopping?

Isn’t it strange how 2 hours seem so long when you’re at church, and how short they seem when you’re watching a good movie?

Isn’t it strange that you can’t find a word to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend?

Isn’t it strange how difficult and boring it is to read one chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a popular novel?

Isn’t it strange how everyone wants front-row-tickets to concerts or games, but they do whatever is possible to sit at the last row in Church?

Isn’t it strange how we need to know about an event for Church 2-3 weeks before the day so we can include it in our agenda, but we can adjust it for other events in the last minute?

Isn’t it strange how difficult it is to learn a fact about God to share it with others, but how easy it is to learn, understand, extend and repeat gossip?

Isn’t it strange how we believe everything that magazines and newspapers say, but we question the words in the Bible?

Isn’t it strange how everyone wants a place in heaven, but they don’t want to believe, do, or say anything to get there?

If we want revival, then we have to respond to the Spirit’s moving, understand how God has moved in the past, pray He’d do it again, submit to the authority of God’s life-changing Word, pursue God’s presence, and thus receive the blessing from God! Psalm 85 has given us a recipe for revival. Will we implement these ingredients into our hearts and minds in preparation for God will do?

Review of Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

In Church Life on March 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm

expelled-large

Tonight, we debuted Friday Night Flicks at our church where the first Friday of each month, we watch a movie with either a Christian theme or (as in this case) a theme regarding the culture’s view of Christianity.

The first movie we watched was Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” (You can view the official website as well.) One could not help but notice Stein’s even-handedness in this documentary (for an example of the opposite approach, watch anything by Michael Moore or Bill Maher). Stein was empathetic, gracious, unintrusive—yet all the while continuing to press the issue of where life originated.

The main theme of this movie was the freedom—freedom that this country is supposed to provide—is being squelched by academia who view anything remotely religious as sheer fantasy and therefore unscientific.

Stein claims that we should have the freedom to look at the evidence and make determinations regardless of worldview. Yet numerous times, atheistic scientists claim that science impacted their worldview, but in reality our worldview impacts how we look at everything, even science.

Many of the flaws of Darwinism are exposed, and Stein gives these “expelled” professors and scientists a forum to state their case—a forum not provided apparently in academia, where the mere mention of Intelligent Design will not only threaten their job, but increase the risk of that professor finding reputable and gainful employment elsewhere. Anything relating to the notion of an intelligent designer, even alluding to it objectively, is not a safe course of action.

When watching this movie, one must understand upfront that intelligent design (ID) is not the same as biblical creationism (although Darwinists understand that ID could lead to creationism). ID simply says that what we see has the mark of a designer, one who is not identified. Biblical creationists identify the designer!

Yet Stein succeeds in showing us what the majority of the public have long suspected: there is academic freedom, just so long as that freedom stays within the accepted bounds of certain academic understandings. Darwinism and secular humanism rule the day, making no allowances for a six-day Creator. Stein believes that we should have the freedom to look at the evidence, do the research, and make our determinations based upon the evidence, not whether our answers fit in to our previously built parameters of secular academia.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough.

To see some clips of the movie, click here.

Tozer on the Danger of Meaningless Words

In Church Life on February 11, 2009 at 11:18 am
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was a plain-spoken pastor who spoke the penetrating truth of the Word of God without compromise or apology. His legacy was not only in two of his classic works, The Pursuit of God, and Knowledge of the Holy, but in his insistence that our relationship with God go beneath the external surface of religious ritual.

Today’s Tozer Devotional deals with how Christians use certain religious words without thinking:

At the risk of shocking some tender-minded persons, I venture to list here a few words and phrases that to millions of evangelical Christians have no longer an identifiable content and are used merely as religious sounds without any relation to reality. They have meaning, and they are good and sacred words, but they have no meaning as used by the speaker and as heard by the listener in the average religious gathering. Here they are: victory, heart and life, all out for God, to the glory of God, receive a blessing, conviction, faith, revival, consecration, the fullness of God, by the grace of God, on fire for God, born again, filled with the Spirit, hallelujah, accept Christ, the will of God, joy and peace, following the Lord–and there are scores of others.

We have reared a temple of religious words comfortably disassociated from reality. And we will soon stand before that just and gentle Monarch who told us that we should give an account of every idle word. God have mercy on us.

Are there any we can add to the list?

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When God’s Gifts Lead to Selfish Pride

In Church Life on February 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

For all too many, selfishness within individual church members spreads out and affects the whole church body. I remember growing up in churches where the business meetings would be so contentious due to the selfish agendas of many.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the church in Corinth which was a very cosmopolitan area. Many different philosophies and religions were in place there, leading many people astray. These mindsets were creeping into the church. First Corinthians is about dealing with the area of pride in the life of a Christian.

These are notes I had for a chapel service at which I preached on Thursday, February 5, 2009 at Blue Grass Baptist School, Lexington, KY.

  1. “My preacher is better than your preacher.”

Look with me at 1 Cor. 1:10-17

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. [11] For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. [12] What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” [13] Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? [14] I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, [15] so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. [16] (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) [17] For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

In Corinth, the citizens identified themselves with a particular orator or philosopher–and this mindset bled into the church. Some identified with Paul, others Apollos, others Cephas, or those who rose above it all (sarcasm intended) saying they follow Christ.

We do that even now. Some people find themselves identifying with a particular pastor, minister, or ministry. Our church had a pastor who served for 33 years (1940-1973). Those who came into the church under his ministry still hold to his views and convictions. After him, another minister came in whose heart was very missions-minded. Those coming into the church under his ministry were of this mindset as well.

Do you see how the devil can use even godly men as a means to stir up the pride and arrogance of the most well-intended Christian? We must beware of exalting the messenger above the message and thus causing division.

2. “My standard is better than your standard.”

In 1 Cor. 2:1-5, we read:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. [2] For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. [3] And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, [4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, [5] that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The Corinthians like the rhetoricians and the orators who spoke fluently. Their words mesmerized. Yet Paul did not come with this type of “lofty speech and wisdom.” These attributes impressed the people of Corinth, and even impressed the Christians in the Corinthian church.

We all find ourselves impressed as well with politicians and even preachers who may have a gift of oratory and rhetoric, even though they may not have much to say. They are all style, and no substance.

Here comes Paul saying that he only came with one overriding factor: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” How did he come? “In weakness, and in fear and much trembling.” What did he seek to convey? A “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul’s desire was to have people trust in God’s power, not in the fallible wisdom of men.

3.“My freedom is greater than your freedom.”

First Cor. 5:1-7 says:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. [2] And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
[3] For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. [4] When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
[6] Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [7] Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

These heinous sexual sins were not only condoned, but were done with arrogance and boasting! They felt their freedom in Christ gave them freedom to sin—after all, wouldn’t God’s grace cover it? They were in Christ–but their theology was off. They thought they had freedom to sin rather than a freedom from sin and a freedom to obey.


4.
“My knowledge is greater than your knowledge.”

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-4, we read:

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. [2] If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. [3] But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. [4] Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We are to have knowledge about not only the things of God but also other religions, philosophies, and worldview. This “knowledge” can be used as leverage to exalt one’s reputation. You may know enough to win every Trivial Pursuit game on the planet, but like 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 notes, you will just be noisy.

What are we to do with the knowledge we have? We are to use it and not be a stumbling block. Many realized there were no power in the idols, but some who were new in the faith and still immature in the gospel still felt the pull in their flesh to that old lifestyle. We may have knowledge, but we must also have compassion on those who are ‘there’ yet.

Harold Best in his book “Music Through the Eyes of Faith,” told of a young man who was converted from a Satanic religion, came to church where the organist began playing “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by J.S. Bach (a Christian)–but this tune was used in some of their Satanic rituals. His system couldn’t handle it, so he ran out. We may have knowledge that Bach was a Christian, but we still need to realize ways we may cause others to stumble in their faith.

5.”My status is better than your status.”


In 1 Cor. 11:17-22, we read:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. [18] For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, [19] for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. [20] When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. [21] For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. [22] What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

What does the Lord’s Supper represent? Christ establishing a New Covenant in His blood for the forgiveness of sins. He loved us and gave Himself for us. Yet, these Corinthians were seeing who could come to the Lord’s Table (where a full meal was offered, by the way) for meat and drink–leaving those who are last without anything. Their actions were the exact antithesis of why they celebrated the meal to begin with. They had not gripped the gospel!

6. “My gifts are better than your gifts.”

In 1 Corinthians 12:28-31, Paul write:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. [29] Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? [30] Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? [31] But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Some bragged about their gifts–gifts that God graciously gave them to spread His glory and to serve His church. They used a God-given gift to exalt themselves!! The more excellent way? Read 1 Corinthians 13. While certain gifts may be more on display in front of the assembly, each Christian has a gift to contribute to the body and culture for the Kingdom. These gifts must not given a reason for pride and boasting, but for worship in that God equips us for His use!

What a wonder it is that God saves poor sinners by His grace and uses us for His glory.

A Gospel Lesson from the Biggest Loser

In Church Life on February 4, 2009 at 11:50 am


Those of you who are fans of NBC’s The Biggest Loser realize that the premise of the show is a combination of training to lose weight along with positioning oneself to stay above the “yellow line” (the line that separates the two lowest percentages of weight loss from the others, thus making them eligible for the others who are above the yellow line to vote one or the other off the ranch (the place where they lived and trained during their stay).

As you can imagine, the side stories add a lot of drama. In the fifth week of the seventh season, the biggest drama of the Biggest Loser so far as been that of the Silver Team of Carla and Joelle. Coming to the ranch, they were best friends. Yet the drama began when it was clear to everyone that Joelle was not invested. While Carla worked at a tremendous level, Joelle did a lot of talking (to the point where here trainer, Bob, lost it for the first time) but gave plenty of excuses for not doing the work.

When Joelle lost 0 pounds and was up for elimination, everyone chimed in (including her partner, Carla) questioning her desire. She gave excuses, reasons, felt she was doing the work—even though no one saw it. As a result, Carla and Joelle were voted off in favor of a team who wanted to be there. Their friendship is now strained at best, possibly non-existent.

What’s the gospel lesson here? Too many of us are deceived as to our condition–even when God and others testify to something different. We become so self-absorbed because we are so imprisoned to our sin. The result of sin is a hardness of heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27) that is blind to their true condition. Joelle’s reaction to her poor weight loss which resulted from her poor work efforts which resulted from a selfishness in not wanting to pay the price. Her actions didn’t just affect her, it affected teammates and everyone in the house. But it all started with her resilience toward any correction or reflection. She felt she was OK.

Those in this bondage, this feeling they are OK and failing to see their true need, will never see their need for a Savior. Our churches are filled with people who think they are in good spiritual shape, but Christ only serves to make good people better. Look at Ephesians 2:1-7:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Scripture tells us repeatedly that we have nothing of any spiritual consequence to bring to Christ. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are those who see their spiritual destitution. Blessed are those who see their deadness. Blessed are those who see their need.

We do not have the equipment to meet that need, “But God, being rich in mercy… made us alive together in Christ.” If you do not understand your need, you will not run to the solution. Joelle is a prime example of someone who had a heart issue. She thought about herself during the workouts, she thought about herself in her reaction to what others had observed, and she thought about herself even now in breaking off a friendship.

For those who believe that believe in self is the answer, the truth is that self causes more problems than offers solutions. Turn to Christ who deals honestly with us in our sin, but also provides the solution through His death and resurrection. He shows us the horror of our sin by His death, but He shows us His power and grace by defeating it through His resurrection.

Gripped By The Gospel Blog

In Church Life on February 3, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Dear Readers:

After careful consideration, I have begun a new blog called Gripped by the Gospel, which will receive a more pointed focus.  This blog will still exist for some of our church members in regards specifically to our church’s matters.  I hope you will come over and take a look.

Blessings,

“Bro. Matt”

9 Marks Journal Released: Raising Up the Next Generation of Pastors

In Church Life on February 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm
The new 9Marks Newsletter is out. This deals with the role of the local church in training aspiring pastors. This is the thesis of my DMin project. Just click on the banner up top.